In an informal survey of 1,626 scripted shows that aired on broadcast and cable television between 1970 and 2014, BuzzFeed found that at least 253 of them — or 32% — were set in New York and 270 in Los Angeles. (Of the original 1,725 shows, 99 were disqualified for various reasons, including being set on a moving train and being set in space.) Although New York and Los Angeles are the two most populous cities in the country, they contain only 4% of the country’s population.
At least 82 scripted series during that 44-year period were set in Chicago, 50 in Washington, D.C., and 59 in San Francisco. Although Houston is more than two and a half times as populous as San Francisco, it apparently has less than 1/10th the amount of scripted shows set there.
San Antonio, Texas, the seventh largest city in the country by population, seems to have had approximately one show set in it — 2014’s Killer Women. San Jose, Calif., the 10th largest city in the country, has apparently never had a series for adults set there. Fawna Ferguson of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs could recall only one series set in San Jose — Buckaroo 500, a children’s show which was filmed in the 1960s.
Pretty bleak. According to Nielsen, the South “spends the most time watching TV” — TV that by and large doesn’t show the South. (Clearly, there are exceptions. New Orleans, for one, is getting more narrative airtime as of late.)
When you compare the number of shows set in each city to the percentage of the American populace actually living in these cities, it’s clearly quite skewed.
Nielsen also ranks Philadelphia as the fourth largest TV-consumer market (PDF here). The most represented cities all fall into the top 10 market areas, but there are some rather underrepresented cities whose citizens are consuming a lot of TV that doesn’t depict their towns. Houston! Dallas! Atlanta!
1. New York — 7,461,030 TV homes
2. Los Angeles — 5,665,780 TV homes
3. Chicago — 3,534,080 TV homes
4. Philadelphia — 2,963,500 TV homes
5. Dallas-Fort Worth — 2,655,290 TV homes
6. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose — 2,518,900 TV homes
7. Boston — 2,433,040 TV homes
8. Washington, D.C. — 2,412,250 TV homes
9. Atlanta — 2,375,050 TV homes
10. Houston — 2,289,360 TV homes